Friendship As Shared Sacred Space for Empowerment and Healing
For many this time has been filled with heartbreak and grief for loved ones who have fallen ill or passed on from COVID-19. Some of us have also experienced loved ones caught in the shadow epidemics of domestic abuse or mental health break-downs. Others of us have lost sources of income and/or felt challenged by lost routines, additional home-schooling and child-care responsibilities, or simply lost time and space alone.
Some of us await a return to the previous normal while others have referred to the potential of pandemic as portal, as an opportunity for an “all-change” that may yield a more hopeful, equitable and sustainable, personal and societal paradigm.
I belong in the latter category and my own reflections during this challenging time (outside of the additional emotional roller-coaster and trauma of divorce), have focused on how we have the potential to be portals of change for each other. That is, how we can create and hold space for our mutual empowerment and healing to ensure that on an individual level, this time — and all time — is in fact a liminal space , a potential moment of transition from the old, which is no longer serving to a new, more expansive frame. And how the sustained creation of these sacred/liminal friendship spaces will enable us to rebirth ourselves to build the improved paradigms.
Indeed, to some extent, the pandemic has been an emotional leveler. Most of us have been touched by some form of suffering and have had the opportunity — in fact been compelled — to meet ourselves without distraction, examine and cleanse our interior landscapes, and draw strength from depths with which we were heretofore unacquainted. And all while we attempt to support and help others. With the multitude of crises that await our attention once this pandemic subsides, one might reasonably ask from where we will now experience the sweetness of life having all been touched so markedly by multiple individual and collective traumas and reckonings in a short space of time. The answer, perhaps equally true pre-pandemic, is most obviously within ourselves and within the spaces we create with each other. But in order to do so in ways which truly alleviate suffering we must learn to consciously create these empowering and healing spaces.
What is in this space that might be different from the friendships you currently consider close? It seems obvious that emotional vulnerability and open-heartedness are in this space. But maybe it’s less obvious that this is also a space where our internal conditioning can be safely challenged, where our deepest truths can be voiced and examined and where each can help ignite the healing ability of the other — that is the power to nurture ourselves through full empowerment with our inner knowing and truth, and to release our shadows such that our mere presence has the chance to inspire and invite the other to reclaim wholeness.
It is a space where our suffering is tended to through the mutual exchange of personal stories. It is a space where dots can gently be connected in order to draw forth wisdom and help create boundaries of awareness. It requires a willingness to speak truth, to sit in truth, and to revisit concepts and ideas previously held as truth. It is a commitment to full embodiment in the present moment, full attention to the details of the other’s life, and a full trust in the capacity of each to walk her discerning path of light. It focuses less on commiseration and more on acceptance and becoming. It strives not to take the pain of the other, nor to minimize the pain, but rather to witness it, to feel it, to generate mutual understanding around it, and to provide support and encouragement for its bearer. On a metaphysical level, such connection and space has the possibility to facilitate true catharsis in correlation to the energetic cohesion of each individual and their ability to both ground energy and offer it to Divine Source.
Not everyone is a candidate for such liminal spaces. And to be sure, these spaces are best entered after one has done a critical amount of shadow work and healing for oneself. Indeed, in order not to take on another’s suffering and in order to be energetically safe in this transformative space one must be successfully addressing one’s own shadow in an individual process, and be alive to when the other’s shadow is too strong for them to hold you in light even when appearances are to the contrary. As such, we come back to an essential truth that we must be the change that we want to help promote for others and create in the wider collective.
As a young adult I used to wonder why people so readily availed themselves of therapists and counselors for what seemed to be the stress of every day life. Stress that I thought might just as easily be worked through and alleviated over tea and a chat with a friend. While perhaps indicative of a naivety about the depth of human suffering and our capacity as unqualified professionals to provide needed professional assistance, the sentiment points to a belief that if we are engaged in our own self-awareness and personal growth process which is working, we all have the potential to help each other return to Love. In a way it is the ultimate democratization of the healer’s space, the ultimate end goal of new, more enlightened paradigms: that almost every encounter is a chance to embrace our highest self and hold the other in theirs. Surely this is the essential magic, delight, and sweetness of being human.
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